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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Abortion Terms Revisited


http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/thegaggle/archive/2010/03/19/pro-life-or-anti-abortion-rights-journalists-abortion-and-why-word-choice-matters.aspx

http://www.npr.org/ombudsman/2010/03/in_the_abortion_debate_words_m_1.html?ft=1&f=17370252

While I have already confronted this issue in a rambling form before, I have now discovered an article that confronted the difficulty of associating terms with the spectrum of the abortion topic. It seems NPR is one of the only news organizations (besides Fox News quite likely) that uses the terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice”. The counterparts in the majority of other news stations are “anti-abortion” in exchange for “pro-life” and “abortion rights advocates” in exchange for “pro-choice”. While there are some difficulties I find even with this specification by CBS, NBC and CNN among others, such as the allegation by many in article comments that the term “abortion rights” presumes that there is a right to abortion. And I suppose one could also object to the term anti-abortion, since many conscientious opponents of abortion are not 100% against it, since they recognize there are points where abortion would line up with their position that is so commonly called “pro life”. If the mother’s life is in danger or the embryo/fetus will suffer crippling and life threatening birth defects, many would grant that abortion is justified in those circumstances. But even if we changed it to “abortion rights opponents” the difficulty would still remain with the objection of a supposed innate right to abortion by Constitutional interpretation.

There is a blog I glance at of a college acquaintance (indefenseoftheconstitution.blogspot.com) who covers mostly political/economic issues in relation to a very strict Constitutionalist Libertarian position along with Reformed Calvinist Christianity (a surprising combination, I know). And he put forth a note in an article probably a year ago or so that confronts the issue that comes with the labels of pro-choice and pro-life, though this may have been unintended. His main thrust was that liberty and choice by association are contingent to life itself, which in his argument was why life was put before liberty in the trio found early on in the Constitution. The syllogistic argument might go something like this:

1) Liberty is dependent on life to exist
2) Pro choice values liberty over life.
3) Pro life values life over liberty.
C) Therefore pro life advocates liberty better than pro choice.

Syllogistic arguments can become problematic in that they are more prone to logical fallacies and much easier objections to the premises within the argument; but they do get the point across expediently. I imagine that my acquaintance has a nuanced understanding of his position on abortion, and that he probably wouldn’t appreciate being described as valuing life over liberty, since it would no doubt make him appear to be a totalitarian that enforces their authority on others (and he is definitely a limited govt. kind of guy). So his response could come in the form of clarifying that pro life or associated positions do not value life over liberty, but inform others of their liberty and the better choice to “live and let live” instead of taking away the future liberty of a future child. Having had a number of informal debates online with abortion opponents, the arguments are not all faulty. And yet these people also insist on using the title pro life still, which reduces the argument on either side to creating strawmen of either side. Not to mention the issue of assuming every zygote and embryo is identical to a fetus and that a fetus is identical to a child, but the point still stands.

Pro-life is not by necessity Anti-choice, and contrariwise, Pro-choice is not Anti-life. Pro and Anti Abortion would be a good start to changing how the sides are presented, but perhaps instead of Anti-abortion, Contra or Counter-abortion might make more sense, since the prefix Contra/Counter implies opposition in the sense of more civil disagreements. Anti abortion makes the side opposing abortion generalized to the minority that choose to bomb abortion clinics or kill abortion doctors in their churches. I seriously doubt most people opposing abortion choose such methods to make their case or argue their position, so it would probably be best to meet somewhere in the middle on the argument. So “pro-lifers” shouldn’t call abortion advocates murderers or imply they are anti life by using the term “pro life” and maybe “pro-choicers” won’t call you anti-choice or imply you are fascists or totalitarians wanting to control people’s actions. I know the way of moderation and compromise is difficult in politically charged discussions, but I imagine you could forgive my Buddhist way of thinking in trying to live the Middle Path in all areas of life. Until next time, Namaste and Aloha

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